Ethiopian A359 at Johannesburg on Nov 6th 2021, hard landing, wing tip strike

Last Update: December 23, 2022 / 16:53:59 GMT/Zulu time

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Incident Facts

Date of incident
Nov 6, 2021


Flight number

Aircraft Registration

Aircraft Type
Airbus A350-900

ICAO Type Designator

Airport ICAO Code

An Ethiopian Airlines Airbus A350-900, registration ET-AYB performing flight ET-809 from Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) to Johannesburg (South Africa) with 68 passengers and 12 crew, touched down hard on Johannesburg's runway 03R at 12:57L (10:57Z), rejected landing and climbed out about 10 degrees right off the runway heading. The aircraft climbed to 8000 feet MSL, subsequently positioned for an approach to runway 03L and landed without further incident about 20 minutes later.

The aircraft was still on the ground in Johannesburg 12 days later.

A local source told The Aviation Herald the aircraft suffered a hard landing and a runway excursion and went around.

According to ADS-B data transmitted by the aircraft the aircraft was descending at 500+ fpm at the time of touchdown, touched down about 120 meters/400 feet past the runway threshold (past the runway numbers but before the first touch down zone marker), changed 12 degrees to the right and climbed through 400 feet AGL about 460 meters/1500 feet to the right of the runway centerline overflying the hangars east of the runway.

On Nov 10th 2021 South Africa's CAA reported they were notified of an incident involving an Ethiopian A350-900 on Nov 6th 2021 and dispatched investigators on site to determine scope and size of the investigation. A preliminary report will be published within 30 days.

On Nov 18th 2021 The Aviation Herald received photos of the damage and current repairs (see below) verifying that the aircraft also received damage to its right wing tip as result of a wing tip strike.

Later on Nov 18th 2021 South Africa's CAA added that the aircraft encountered a strong crosswind while landing on runway 03R, the right hand wing tip made contact with the runway surface. The occurrence was rated an accident and is being investigated.

Ethiopian Airlines so far did not respond to an inquiry by The Aviation Herald sent on Nov 9th 2021.

On Dec 3rd 2021 South Africa's CAA (SACAA) released their preliminary report rating the occurrence an accident, the aircraft received substantial damage. The SACAA also reported that the CVR had not been deactivated following the accident and was overwritten.

The SACAA summarized the testimony of the captain:

The captain/pilot flying (PF) stated that upon his first contact with Johannesburg air traffic control (ATC), he was cleared for an OKPIT 4A standard instrument landing system (ILS) approach for Runway 03R. The weather from the Automatic Terminal Information Services (ATIS) that was broadcasted to the crew was — wind at a direction of 300° at 22 knots (kts), ceiling and visibility OK (CAVOK), temperature at 27°C, dew point at 11°C and query nautical height (QNH) at 1021 hectopascal (hPa). The PF stated that he had prepared for the arrival and had briefed the approach as per the company briefing checklist; he had anticipated a wind shear upon landing, therefore, added 5kts on the approach velocity (Vapp) of 137kts as per the operation manual for strong crosswind landings. The flaps were configured at 3°. The crew established for an ILS 03R approach and stabilised before 1000 feet (ft) above ground level (AGL). On final approach, ATC reported that the wind was from a direction of 300° at 22kts. At 30ft AGL, the PF flared with the adjusted crosswind landing technique by adding 5kts and retarded the thrust.

The PF attempted to touch down within the touchdown zone, but the aircraft could not touch down inside the touchdown zone. The PF concluded that they were in wind shear and decided to execute a go-around. During the initial stages of the go-around, the gusty wind over-banked the aircraft to the right. The ATC instructed the PF to maintain runway heading and to climb to 8000ft above mean sea level (AMSL) and vectored them for Runway 03L landing. The crew related to ATC that they had encountered wind shear on final approach. The PF was able to land safely on Runway 03L and, at 1126Z, the chocks were placed against the aircraft’s wheels at the parking bay. Thereafter, the crew disembarked and, during transit check, they noticed the damage on the right-side wing tip.

The aircraft left a scrape mark of about 110 meters length starting about 80 meters past the touch down zone on the runway. The captain (38, ATPL, 10,641 hours total, 1,738 hours on type) was pilot flying and was assisted by a first officer (29, CPL, 2,322 hours total, 983 hours on type) as pilot monitoring.

On Dec 23rd 2022 the SACAA released their final report concluding the probable causes of the accident were:

Probable Cause/s

The pilot applied excessive right rudder input whilst attempting to line up to the runway centreline, which caused the aircraft to over-drift to the right and experience a significant sideslip build-up and roll departure on the right. Subsequently, the right-wing tip contacted the runway despite the left sidestick input.

Contributory Factors

- There was a left crosswind component which reduced closer to the ground.

- Early flare initiation caused the aircraft to float over the runway and, thus, the aircraft missed the touchdown zone.

- No evidence of wind shear even though the pilot stated its presence.

The SACAA analysed:

The aircraft was on a scheduled passenger international flight from HAAB to FAOR. The crew was using manual ILS approach for landing Runway 03R. The ATC reported the wind to be 300° at 20kts which would result in a crosswind from the left. On final approach, the PF anticipated the left crosswind and, therefore, initiated the crab method. The PF successfully crabbed the aircraft during approach. He then flared the aircraft at approximately 50ft AGL. The crew applied the left roll inputs, likely to counter the effect of the left crosswind and to maintain the aircraft on the runway centreline. The right rudder pedal was depressed to maximum and was maintained in that position for approximately 6 seconds to align the aircraft to the centreline whilst the PF simultaneously rolled the aircraft to the left to sideslip the aircraft into the wind.

The QAR reading indicated that the aircraft touched down with the left main landing gear for 1s at an 8.4° left bank angle. The PF stated that at this point (30ft AGL) there was a wind shear condition that caused him to have an unstable touchdown and, therefore, initiated the go-around. According to the QAR recordings, there was no wind shear. During the decrab manoeuvre at approximately 7ft AGL, the pilot applied excessive right rudder input whilst attempting to line up to the runway centreline which caused a progressive increase of drift angle and right sideslip, and the subsequent roll departure at a maximum roll rate of 13° per second, reaching a maximum of 35° right roll angle. The transition from air to ground on touchdown allowed more rudder deflection authority as per intended design on ground. As the rudder pedal input was maintained, the left sideslip and the subsequent induced right roll continued to increase.

The PF corrected this by rolling wings to the left and releasing the right rudder. The ATC instructed the PF to maintain runway heading and to climb to an altitude of 8000ft before vectoring them for landing Runway 03L. The PF was able to land the aircraft safely on Runway 03L approximately 20 minutes later with a slightly stronger left crosswind of 330° at 22kts.

FAOR 061300Z 32016G26KT 280V340 9999 SCT049 29/10 Q1019 NOSIG=
FAOR 061230Z 31015KT 9999 FEW045 29/10 Q1019 NOSIG=
FAOR 061200Z 32015KT 290V350 9999 FEW045 29/11 Q1020 NOSIG=
FAOR 061130Z 31017KT 280V340 9999 FEW045 29/10 Q1021 NOSIG=
FAOR 061100Z 32016KT 280V340 9999 FEW045 28/11 Q1021 NOSIG=
FAOR 061030Z 33016KT 300V360 CAVOK 28/10 Q1021 NOSIG=
FAOR 061000Z 34017KT CAVOK 27/11 Q1021 NOSIG=
FAOR 060930Z 32018KT CAVOK 27/11 Q1022 NOSIG=
FAOR 060900Z 32016KT CAVOK 27/11 Q1022 NOSIG=
FAOR 060830Z 34016KT 310V010 CAVOK 25/10 Q1023 NOSIG=
FAOR 060800Z 35017KT CAVOK 25/11 Q1023 NOSIG=
FAOR 060730Z 34017KT CAVOK 24/11 Q1023 NOSIG=
FAOR 060700Z 34016KT CAVOK 24/11 Q1023 NOSIG=
Incident Facts

Date of incident
Nov 6, 2021


Flight number

Aircraft Registration

Aircraft Type
Airbus A350-900

ICAO Type Designator

Airport ICAO Code

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